During the pandemic, it was more than just our physical health that took a hit. People’s mental health also saw a decline as the situation only worsened. More and more people started showing symptoms of depression and other mental illnesses while those with existing conditions only saw them get worse. Thankfully, even with the face-to-face contact still being discouraged in many areas, mental health professionals have taken to the internet and the technology to offer their services online through voice call, video or even through text.
It’s definitely a step up and a useful service for anyone suffering from mental health issues at home. But online therapy or consultation is not without its flaws. How different is it, really, from traditional therapy? Is it more effective, or less? Here, we weigh the pros and cons of online therapy. If you’ve been considering seeing a mental health professional online, here are some things you should know first:
Convenience and accessibility
One of the most obvious benefits of online therapy is, of course, the convenience. Now, instead of driving or traveling to a therapist’s office at a specific time, you can talk to a professional right in the comforts of your own home at any time you choose. This is useful for people with disabilities, people who live far from the city, people with anxiety, and people who can’t find the time to travel or commute.
Depending on your medium of communication as well, you can talk to a therapist straight from your phone, PC, or any device you want and through any means, whether it’s through voice, video, or text. With technology and the internet, therapy has just become even more accessible. Online therapy also covers many areas, from consultation, diagnosis to actual psychotherapy.
The catch, however, is the internet itself. With so many services relying on it, a stable internet connection is required for clear and consistent communication. This can be hard for people who don’t have stable internet access. This can be a significant hurdle in emergency situations when help is needed the most. As it turns out, while the internet has made mental health services more accessible, it’s also made them inaccessible as well.
One question people always ask about any online service is how safe it actually is. How sure are you that the information you share, especially your financial information, is kept between you and your therapist? Or that you can even trust your therapist? Be aware that the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA extends to online health consultations as well. A trusted mental health official will have a site or page that’s HIPAA-approved and encrypts data to prevent anyone from hacking into any sensitive information. If you’re ever unsure, ask your therapist or survey their site or platform yourself.
One way you can also be assured of some level of security is the use of integrated mental health software or service or software-as-a-service apps and programs that protect any data between professionals and their patients. With the use of this software, mental health professionals can easily access and store patient records in a safe and completely secure vault that only they and the patient can access.
If you ever find yourself wondering about a medical official’s legitimacy, look for any records and reviews online. Actual testimonies from previous or current patients always help to not only check if a therapist is legit but also to check if they’re actually any good.
The cost of a single therapy session will always vary depending on the professional and the type of service. Generally, online therapy isn’t more or less expensive than traditional therapy. This will, of course, varies from place to place but for the most part, there isn’t much difference in price. You may still have to pay the same amount for an online therapy session like a traditional face-to-face session.
To curb any high costs, you can try contacting your insurance provider to ask if it covers mental health as well as physical and if that extends to the online consultation. You can also try to find any reliable sources that provide free online therapy. If you’re an essential worker or are going through a particularly hard time due to COVID-related reasons, you might be able to receive priority.
There’s always an underlying question even among people who regularly go to therapy of, does it actually work? Of course, nowadays the question is, does online therapy work as well as traditional therapy? Studies have shown that talking through online therapy is just as effective as traditional therapy. In fact, if you really think about it, there’s very little difference between online and face-to-face therapy. Only the medium and place have really changed. Patients are still able to talk and communicate with their therapists and vice versa, whether it’s online or in person.
In the end, the effectiveness of online therapy depends on the patient and the therapist. After all, therapy only works when the patient is willing to change and take their therapist’s advice. Nor should therapy be seen as a cure-all for all mental illnesses. It’s really all a matter of circumstance, behavior, and perspective.
Don’t wait until it’s too late to seek professional help if you ever feel like you need it. Technology has made getting professional help all the more accessible and it’s always best to take advantage of that while you can. Mental health is not something anyone should take lightly and if you have the means to, then we recommend you get help as soon as you can if you’ve been struggling.